In many areas of life, there are different levels of “fandom.”
Texas and Football
For the better part of the last decade our family resided in Houston. When we moved there from Los Angeles in 2007 I had my stereotypical ideas of what Texas would be like, from watching King of the Hill reruns and recalling every visual and verbal caricature I ever encountered.
I was relieved to find out that most of my preconceived notions were way off the mark. I had imagined that parched, half-submerged cattle skeletons, bleaching themselves in the desert sun, would greet me as I drove across a vast no man’s land at the heart of the state, a domestic version of Australia’s Outback, but was instead pleasantly surprised by the many miles of lush greenness along I-10’s extremely flat landscape.
One thing I did have right about Texas, though: it is impossible to overstate its citizens’ love of football. That’s every level of football, especially high school and college. They tolerate the pros, and turn to the middle schools to wean the next generation. I’m sure they’d have elementary- and nursery-level tackle football there, too, if they were allowed.
Go to any college game in the state, and look around the stands. Never mind what’s happening on the field: today we’re more interested in the attending crowd. You can see various levels of interest, from the young woman in sundress, flip-flops and shades, clearly bored and dragged there by her boyfriend, to the weekend assistant coach, who knows all the players by name and bodily bawls out what call should have been made when the refs miss one.
But they’re amateurs when it comes to football fandom.
The real pro is Big Buford.
Believe me, you’ll know Buford when you see him. He’s the one who is shirtless, even on days when it’s less than sixty degrees outside and body-painted two colors which clearly clash. In one hand is a 22-ounce cup of something marginally flammable, and on his head are steer horns, a fish head or some other animal part.
He can probably stand to skip a couple of meals, too.
And if you can’t see him, don’t worry: even above the cheering aficionados in the stands you can hear Buford shouting encouragement to the home team, in good times and in bad.
In another place and time, he’d be the one to go out and yell for the hogs to come home.
Now, I’ve never gone that far for anything in my life. Well, actually I have, but in a quieter, more subdued (but no less intense) way.
Today I am completely sold out for the kingdom of God.
But in my younger years, the television show Star Trek was my religion.
Star Trek and Fandom
FIJAGH vs. FIAWOL
In the early (circa 1970) Star Trek culture, there were two acronyms to describe one’s level of fandom for the show:
FIJAGH: Fandom Is Just A God-blessed Hobby
FIAWOL: Fandom Is A Way Of Life
Those in the FIJAGH camp liked the show and knew the basics, yes, but that was about it. They could take it or leave it; at the end of the day, it was simply another form of entertainment, just another TV show like “Mission: Impossible” or “Lost In Space,” albeit more intelligent and memorable than either.
FIAWOL, on the other hand, was a world unto itself. First, it was one’s imperative to know everything about the show: granular details of each episode, yes, but also the “universe” in which it existed. This included the history of the Federation, technical minutiae of starships and, for some, even creating a language for the Klingons. There is even a fan-written Star Trek Encyclopedia, where much of this gathered information resides.
The truly hard-core fans attended Star Trek conventions. These were major events held every year at large hotels in major cities around the country, which could expect to draw thousands of attendees. Many of the faithful were dressed up in Starfleet uniforms and outfitted themselves with plastic model communicators (which, it can be persuasively argued, were an inspiration for today’s cell phones) and phasers, to see and hear the show’s stars, writers and producers dish the behind-the-scenes details die-hard fans loved.
In my youth, I was one of those.
My knowledge of the show was encyclopedic, from the color of the planet Cestus III (lime green) to Captain James T. Kirk’s middle name (Tiberius). I watched the show almost every day, Monday through Friday, as it was syndicated in our city, so it took about four months to cycle through all 79 episodes. I did attend ONE Star Trek convention, in 1975… but I did not wear a uniform, and I left my toys at home.
And it does stick with you.
Many years later they came out with a Star Trek version of the board game “Trivial Pursuit”, and some friends made the mistake of challenging me to play it with them one Friday after work. I allowed that I “used to watch the show occasionally” (*smirk*) so I let them have three players on their team while I had one other person besides myself on mine.
We killed them.
So I let them have the other person, so now it was the four of them against me.
Still killed them.
Then I started drinking beer (I was not, and still am not much of a drinker) to level the playing field.
It didn’t help. Wiped them out again.
Finally, I had to visit the bathroom (all that beer!). I was going up the stairs to the facilities when my friend Kevin made his best attempt to stump me.
“OK, try this one: in the episode ‘Day of the Dove’, how many Klingons and Enterprise crew members were trapped above decks when the entity sealed the bulkheads?”
Without hesitating or breaking my stride, I shouted over my shoulder.
When I came back downstairs, the game had been put away, and the guys were watching TV.
“We give up,” Kevin droned, without looking away from the television.
What if our “fandom” for God and His Word was on that level?
What would it be like to be driven by the same fervor, the same “need to know” that we put on non-eternal things?
The FIJAGH Christian
The “FIJAGH Christian” (just a hobby) gets it: we need a Savior, Jesus is it, and at a minimum that will keep us out of Hell. Good: that’s a start… yet it isn’t much more than that. Sure, there are lifestyle changes, frequent church attendance and a general tilt toward that which is good, but it stops short of the whole-hog “abundant life” Jesus offers us in John 10:10.
The FIAWOL Christian
For the “FIAWOL Christian” (way of life), this is only the beginning.
For starters, you would make it your mission to know everything possible about God, Jesus, the Bible, our place in it all, and how it all fits together. You’d quickly learn the main details of the books of the Bible: their names, locations, what they’re about and what happens in them. We quickly get a “feel” of who the main characters are (God, Adam, Noah,…), the book’s overall structure (Testaments, history, poetry, letters,…) and, most importantly, the wisdom and truths God wants to impart to us through His Word.
We become voracious readers of the Scriptures and other resources, eager to soak up this information!
Once we do obtain this knowledge, do we keep it to ourselves?
We talk to other “fans” and compare notes at every opportunity. We consult other “fan publications” in print, on television and at the movie theatre. And we attend “conventions”: local ones every Sunday and Wednesday (church), while the truly hard-core can additionally seek out larger, more specialized functions which sell out arenas in major metropolises across the country and around the world.
Bringing your communicators and phasers is optional.
And… you won’t ever pass up the chance to talk excitedly about it to anyone who will listen, anytime, anywhere. You don’t care who knows you are a “fan of God”: you WANT them to know, you WANT to open the door for them to be a “fan”, too, and if they don’t want to be a fan, well, then, that’s on them, and you just move on down the road and don’t give it a second thought.
It was relatively natural and easy to get this worked up over a fifty-year-old television show. Why is it so hard to get behind something really exciting, like spending all of eternity with the Creator of the universe?
It is the nature of order to attract chaos, for beautiful gardens to invite weeds (and serpents!), and anything good and pure to be susceptible to contamination and perversion. Neither Star Trek nor Christianity could escape this fate.
What Happened with Star Trek
The show was on NBC for only three years, 1966-1969, and, despite a last-ditch viewer campaign to save it, was canceled due to low ratings.
But then something truly amazing happened: the second-most-impressive “life after death” resurrection of all time took place (we’ll get to #1 a little later) as the series became more popular in syndication than it ever was as a weekly network program. Fan clubs sprang up nationwide as “Trekkies” tuned in daily in droves to local stations across the country to share the documented voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Many of those same fans began producing their own books, fiction, fan magazines and even short films based on the show, completely independent of Paramount Studios, the show’s owner at the time; they turned a blind eye as fans drove up their property’s value by creating additional content, with no monetary investment on the studio’s part. Billions of dollars of merchandise was created and sold worldwide by enterprising (*nyuk nyuk*) individuals.
This explosion of aficionado interest culminated in the franchise being resurrected in 1979 with the first of six Star Trek movies based on the series.
Did it stop there? Not a chance.
A second television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) came along in 1987, with a whole new cast, ship and universe (it was set about 80 years post-Kirk) and ran seven seasons in syndication; it surpassed the popularity of the original show, which was no small thing. Since then, TNG went on to make even more big-screen theatrical films (ten!), and there have been four more television series since then, including the currently-running Star Trek: Discovery, with yet another, Star Trek: Picard set to premiere in 2020.
Behind the scenes, though, Paramount and CBS decided to cage their golden goose and keep an ever-larger share of the eggs it lays for themselves.
They have done this in many ways, but most prominently by strangling fans’ license to produce filmed entertainment based on the show, much of which puts the Hollywood studios to shame.
Some of these fan-generated works are of such outstanding quality, depth and meticulous fidelity to the original source material that they often surpass the work of the professionals, and make it impossible to believe they descend from the labor of amateurs. There is little doubt that Paramount’s disastrous attempt to “reboot” the original series of movies, begun in 2009 and since run into the ground over ill-advised changes to the Star Trek universe, played a part in this decision, as did the likely jealousy raised as far superior and better-received entertainment was produced independently with only a fraction of the studios’ expended resources.
Paramount’s and CBS’ response? They did what arguably could have been done much sooner, but was not, as long as it served their interests.
They sicced the lawyers on their own fan community.
A published list of conditions, from placing a limit of 30 minutes on the length of these films to prohibiting use of the shows’ actors, technical personnel and other resources, has hobbled the makers of fan fiction to the point of being unable to compete with the studios.
More cynical thinkers might believe: that was the point.
The current owners of Star Trek have put their money-making plans into overdrive. Besides wiping out their biggest competition – the more productive part of their own fan base — they have put their new show, Star Trek: Discovery, behind the paywall of CBS All Access (interestingly named, since only those who fork over the cash gain this “access”), and, as mentioned earlier, have several new Star Trek series waiting in the wings to go the same route.
Increasingly, their attitude seems to be: “Thanks for loving the show and keeping it alive for the last 50 years, at your expense, but we’ll take over now… both the show itself, and the money it generates…”
What Happened with Christianity
Sadly, even the realm of the sacred is not immune to the corrupting capabilities of currency.
The 1984 translation of the New International Version Bible (NIV 1984) is beloved by conservative Christian denominations nationwide, who have standardized their teaching and preaching on its text. Since then, however, it has been subject to multiple continuing revisions, causing widespread dissension and controversy in Scripture-loving circles.
According to Robert Slowley’s analysis of the text differences between the 1984 and 2010 versions of the NIV Bible, only about 61% of the total verses remained intact. ¹
In the New Testament, Matthew far and away had the greatest number of changed verses (129), while these Old Testament books were the most heavily edited:
Paul’s letters, and the works of the Minor Prophets, were relatively untouched.
Zondervan is the commercial rights holder for the NIV Bible in North America. In 1988 Zondervan was acquired by HarperCollins, one of the five largest commercial publishers in the world.
HarperCollins is owned, in turn, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a publishing and media empire which includes Fox News, the 20th Century Fox movie studio and The Wall Street Journal. The organization is notoriously, relentlessly driven by the desire to make profits at all costs, and is not above slanting its content to achieve that purpose. It is well known that its business decisions, such as how to edit and present a text under its purview (whether it’s news copy, a textbook or a Bible), are guided primarily by management’s political leanings and how any changes would impact sales; unimportant considerations, like fidelity to God’s Word, are brusquely and contemptuously cast aside.
After a decade of work, efforts of the first major “update” since the HarperCollins-NewsCorp. acquisition bore fruit. A revised New Testament was published in March 2002, and a completed Bible version was released in February 2005. This new version, dubbed Today’s New International Version (TNIV), featured down-to-earth phrasing, a complete purge of gender-specific language (no more “He” and “His”) and a greater emphasis on literal translation (translating words, rather than ideas and concepts).
TNIV was not well-received. A few denominations accepted it, praising its gender neutrality, but over 100 evangelical leaders signed a “Statement of Concern” opposing it. The Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention each passed resolutions against TNIV and other inclusive-language translations. In many cases the subtle meanings of some verses were altered in the name of readability.
Gender neutrality has been a hot-and-heavy battleground issue since the late 1990s, and rages on even today. In the period 1997-1999 alone there were five related articles in the Billy-Graham-founded evangelical magazine Christianity Today, with titles like “The Battle for the Inclusive Bible”, “Bible Translators Deny Gender Agenda” and “Hands Off My NIV!”
Some language changes in the TNIV opened up erroneous interpretations not possible with the 1984 NIV. An example of this is given in 1 Corinthians 14:28 where the subject is Paul’s instruction to the church about speaking in tongues:
|NIV 1984:||TNIV 2005:|
|If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.||If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God.|
|The original Greek has a masculine singular pronoun corresponding to “himself.” The TNIV has nevertheless converted it to plural, “themselves,” in English. The change is made in order to avoid using generic “he” in the form “himself.” The two wordings are similar in meaning, but not the same.
The TNIV, with “them” in the plural, allows a corporate interpretation of the verse. It opens the door to the idea that the people who speak in tongues should go off in a private group where they can speak to one another. They speak “to themselves,” that is, to other tongues-speakers rather than to the general assembly of the church. The NIV, by contrast, unambiguously expresses the correct meaning: each person speaks only to himself and to God, not to the church.
The verse makes an important practical difference today, because people who speak in tongues want to know what sort of direction Paul is giving to them. And they cannot tell from the TNIV, whose wording can easily mislead them.
There is a big cost here in loss of clear meaning because of the refusal to use generic “he.” ²
Even the Bible guardians themselves admitted their error. In a September 2011 editorial in the magazine Christianity Today, the NIV translators and publishers allowed as much:
“Some of the criticism was justified,” [International Bible Society CEO Keith] Danby said. “We fell short of the trust that was placed in us and we made some important errors on the way. . . . We let down our partners.”
“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.” ³
So, it was back to the drawing board. A few years later, in 2011, another new version of the NIV was published (NIV 2010). Its aim was to redress many of TNIV’s perceived shortcomings. It restored some of the gender-specific language TNIV removed – yet it introduced several issues of its own.
Bible scholar Michael Marlowe offers this example from Psalm 1 of how different NIV editions render the same passage (color-coding of text differences by me):
|1984 NIV||Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.|
|2005 TNIV||Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law day and night. They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.|
|2010 NIV||Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.|
|The change here was made in response to criticism of the TNIV which used this verse as an example of the loss of meaning that often happens when plurals are substituted for singulars.
As I wrote in 2005, the substitution of plurals does significantly interfere with the sense here, because “the one man whose delight is in the law of the Lord is set in opposition to the many ungodly ones around him. But when the man is made to disappear into a group of genderless people, then a part of the meaning of this passage is lost.” And so the revisers have made it singular again.
But we also see that they still refuse to use the word “man” or any masculine pronouns, leading to the awkward substitution “that person,” and the ungrammatical use of “they” with a singular antecedent.
This continues to be objectionable, because the stylistic taboo against using the word “man” forces inaccuracy and clumsiness in the translation, and it has nothing to do with making the meaning clear. It is simply a “politically correct” avoidance of masculine terms. c
As with the TNIV, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution against use of NIV 2010. It was adopted at their annual meeting in June 2011, and passed nearly unanimously by a show of hands. Besides gender neutrality, their complaints against it included the alteration “of the meaning of hundreds of verses” and that the new edition “goes beyond acceptable translation standards.”
Beyond disapproving of NIV 2010’s use, the resolution went on to urge LifeWay Christian Resources to ban sales of this version in its bookstores and encourage pastors to “make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the  NIV”.
Zondervan has since published 20 editions of the new NIV Bible, and LifeWay currently sells them in their bookstores and online.
HarperCollins, owner of Zondervan, itself created a website to explain the NIV, including the translation philosophy used for the 2010 version, and interviews with some of the translators themselves. That website can be found here: https://www.thenivbible.com/
An interesting comment by one of the translators reminds us that the edition is the New International Version. The aim, he said, is to make the Word accessible for English speakers the world over, not just in the United States. This was their professed rationale for making many of their translation choices.
The Forced Extinction of NIV 1984
The Assyrians were one of the most powerful, feared and hated military nations of Biblical times. After they conquered a nation, they would seek to weaken its fabric in two ways:
- Deport large segments of the population to Assyria (and, thus, a brain-drain on their homeland), and
- Bring in people from other parts of their empire to settle the conquered nation, in sufficient numbers to dilute the nation’s identity and culture. Over time, the nation no longer existed in its original form.
They did this to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Assyrian customs insinuated themselves into the dominant Jewish way of life to the point of dethroning the role of “Jewish-ness’” in Samaritan culture as the “only” or even the “preferred” way of doing things.
In later generations the Jews hated the Samaritans because of their mixed Jewish and pagan religious practices.
The publishers of the NIV Bible seem to have taken a page from the Assyrian playbook. They have locked the fairly traditional NIV 1984 translation behind a wall called “No Longer Available”, while sating current hunger for NIV Bibles with the semi-gender-neutralized 2010 edition.
It is this edition which is being sold in Christian bookstores, used by denominations nationwide and shipped to third-world countries to which the word of God is being spread.
Over time, existing copies of NIV 1984 will go out of circulation, never to be replaced, while NIV 2010 rushes in to fill the void. As a result, it will eventually eclipse NIV 1984 to become the dominant version.
Welcome to Samaria.
And there is something insidious about how International Bible Society (the translators, who have since renamed themselves “Biblica”), Zondervan (the publisher) and HarperCollins (owner of Zondervan) all march in lock-step in justifying the changes made to the NIV text.
The English language is constantly changing, they posit, and the Bible text has to change, too, if it is to be effective at communicating God’s message to mankind (ummm… I mean… “humanity”… ummm… “people”?).
There is something decidedly disingenuous about this. They act as if the Bible is completely unintelligible without these “updates”, and that the fundamentals of the English language have undergone a wholesale radical shift. Left behind, it is claimed, are large swaths of readers the world over who don’t have the benefit of staying up with the latest vocabulary trends. It is absolutely necessary to keep the Bible up to date, they say, so that people can understand what’s in it.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, words have been added to the lexicon, and some have had their meanings augmented in various ways, but at its core English remains pretty much the same language which existed in 1984, when the last stable NIV edition was printed.
Bible scholar Michael Marlowe is even less convinced:
|The Preface of the revised edition explains that “updates are needed in order to reflect the latest developments in our understanding of the biblical world and its languages and to keep pace with changes in English usage.”
This, however, is nothing but a piece of publisher’s boilerplate, found in all prefaces, and it is somewhat misleading, because there is little or nothing in the NIV revision prompted by “latest developments in our understanding of the biblical world and its languages.”
After looking at the complete list of changes compiled by Robert Slowley, it seems to me that nearly all are trivial adjustments of the version’s phrasing which will be of no interest to Bible students.
And the few changes that do involve different exegetical decisions are not really “updates.” The revision simply reflects in some places a shift in the balance of opinion among the current committee members, about options of interpretation which have been discussed by scholars for over a hundred years, without the benefit of any new information. ⁴
What HAS changed, though, are political sensibilities in some circles about gender, and a grim determination to eradicate all assumed and perceived “unconscious bias” by the original scrolls’ authors and the patriarchal societies in which they lived.
A new NIV edition was the perfect opportunity to sneak in these edits and force the world to accept them by discontinuing previous versions.
They even removed the version number from the book’s cover, so that the less-discerning Bible shopper, looking simply for “a new NIV Bible,” would grab it off the bookstore shelf without a second thought, unaware that he (ah, that dreaded male pronoun!) has purchased a volume which is at the very least suspicious and controversial, and at most dangerously misleading.
Forget Samaria: welcome to Byzantium (literally, from where we get the word “byzantine”)!
For my part, I will keep using my NIV 1984 Bible until the pages fall out. At that point I’ll choose a different version, probably the New American Standard Bible (NASB), adopted by the first church my wife and I attended together after we got married, or the English Standard Version (ESV), because it is trusted by people I respect.
I would urge anyone shopping for a new Bible version to consult their pastor or church leaders, or simply use the edition those leaders themselves or the congregation use.
As for Star Trek, I’m pretty much through with it. I’ll watch the reruns and old movies every now and then, but the new stuff leaves me cold: it’s all so concocted and loaded with social nuances. Discovery has a homosexual continuing character; what would Captain Kirk, that interstellar womanizer of old with a girl on every planet, think?
Plus, there’s a huge ongoing debate in the fan community over which version of events in the various shows’/movies’/books’ timelines is “canon,” i.e., real, and to be believed. Contorted explanations are trotted out to reconcile how the cool events in Film A can be reconciled with the even cooler but utterly incompatible happenings in Book B. Things like “people die”, “wars get fought”, “multiple copies of a person exist”,… it’s the same type of unscrambling which made Lost an ultimately unsatisfying experience, except this one’s still unfolding worldwide in real-time.
People born after, say, 1985 can be forgiven for not knowing that a much simpler world existed recently in place of this one. Back then, there was only ONE phone company (AT&T), ONE NIV Bible, and the starship captain always beat the bad guy, talked a machine to death (Kirk did this three times!) and/or got the girl (I lost count!). America was good, the Soviets were evil, and never the twain met.
But today we have cell phones, Facebook, Instagram. The United States is no longer the de facto world leader, and newly-resurgent countries like Russia, China and India are eating our lunch worldwide. There are now multiple phone companies.
And multiple Star Treks.
And multiple NIV Bibles.
Where will it all end?
To use the phrase: “God only knows.”
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes… And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise stated.
Father, give us the discernment to receive the pure truths of Your Word, and avoid the snares which would keep them from us. You know what our increasing complexities our future holds, and have already decided how we are to navigate them. Tell us, in ways we can understand, how to handle the troubles headed our way, and stand with us as we do so. You swore that you would never leave or forsake us, and through faith we stand on that promise in the midst of the coming storm. Bless Your name and that of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
² Poythress, Vern S. “TNIV’s Altered Meanings: An Evaluation of the TNIV.” frame-poythress.org
³ Olsen, Ted. “Correcting the ‘Mistakes’ of TNIV and Inclusive NIV, Translators Will Revise NIV in 2011.” Christianity Today September 2011 TNIV.
⁴ Marlowe, Michael “The 2011 Revision of the NIV.” www.bible-researcher.com.
*Guest blogs posted on the GreenePastures.org may or may not represent the views of this website.